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An aerial view of the National Library building featuring an angled orange roof
Image: National Library of Australia

Find out about our building works

The National Library is making improvements to our much-loved heritage building.  Follow our progress as we protect the collection and maintain our beautiful building by:  

  • Replacing the copper roof that was severely damaged in the 2020 hailstorm 

  • Restoring some of the brass framed heritage windows  

  • Updating part of the of heating, ventilation and air conditioning system 

  • Improving how we store the collections kept on site 

  • Refurbishing the digitisation and photography labs. 

The collection grows, on average, by 2-2.5kms per year. The building improvements have been designed to ensure we use our available space as efficiently as possible and safeguard the collection for future generations. 

All building works have relied on the advice of and input from conservators, heritage experts, architects and engineers. 

How our building works will impact you

Roof 

If you’re climbing Mt Ainslie or up in a hot air balloon, you will be able to watch the progress of the new copper sheeting being installed on the roof over the next 16 months. Large, white, weather-proof oblong domes will be used to cover the roof while the copper panels are being installed. The gleaming copper sheeting will be revealed as the installation progresses from the front of the building nearest Questacon to the rear facing Commonwealth Avenue Bridge. 

At regular intervals a large crane will be installed to deliver building materials and the copper sheeting to the roof for installation. 

Level 4 of the building is closed to the public while the roof works are underway.  

Windows 

The ageing window frames on the two sides of the building facing Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and Patrick White Lawns will be gradually replaced over the next 20 months.  

The windows on the ground floor, including the stained-glass windows, are not being replaced over this time period – the work will happen on level 1 to level 4. 

Scaffolding and hoardings will be installed so the windows can be replaced and there will be some noise filtering through into the building. 

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Close-up of windows from the exterior of the National Library building
A prototype was installed in 2021 – this allowed the builders to estimate the scale and impact of the work.

Interesting fact - the windows are installed vertically – and will be replaced vertically. 

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning 

The Library stores part of the collection on site in areas that are not open to the public. When you visit the Library you can request collection material to be delivered to the Reading Rooms. As part of our ongoing stewardship and care for these collections, the Library is upgrading about a third of the HVAC system – focusing on the areas where these collections are stored. 

While visitors may hear some noise filtering through to the Reading Rooms, exhibition galleries, Bookplate and Bookshop, the Library took advantage of the lockdowns and continued the HVAC works while the building was closed to the public. 

Some onsite collection storage areas will be temporarily closed, limiting access to some collection material. If material is not available, where possible this information will be included on the catalogue record.  If you are visiting the Library for research, please plan ahead by checking the catalogue. Contact Ask a Librarian if you have questions about whether the collection material you wish to see is available for use. 

Improvements to digitisation and photography areas 

One way the Library provides access to its collections is by creating and making accessible on Trove digital copies of physical collection material (digitisation). The workspaces devoted to this work have been modernised and increased in size in order to meet the growing demand for digitised content. This work is almost complete, but in mid-May and mid-September there may be slight delays to fulfilling Copies Direct orders while the Library staff relocate to the new areas. 

Funding 

These projects have been funded by the Australian Government, including from the Library’s annual appropriation or special projects funding. Insurance is helping fund the roof restoration.